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The Trilogues on the Future CAP Should Boost Ambitions of Sustainability

Updated: Nov 30, 2020

Negotiations for the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) continue, shaping how public funds will influence European farming and landscapes. Resuming today, November 19, and expected to end in March 2021, the 'trilogues' between the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Council are taking place. The next CAP will have a substantial impact on the environment and well-being of pollinators for years to come, and the current discussions will define its future.

BeeLife continues to support the shared position with other environmental NGOs that the current proposals for the CAP lack ambition [1]. If the European Union wants to succeed in achieving its international commitments for sustainability and to build upon a truly 'Green' Deal, it would require a more significant shift in policy.

However, we find significant differences by focusing on the three different positions of EU institutions for the regulation of CAP strategic plans. The regulation will provide the scope for the Member States to direct EU funding to achieve their objectives. As each country drafts a plan, it then presents it to the Commission for evaluation and approval. The proposals of the EU Parliament, the Commission and the Council for strategic plans are not on the same level. Overall, the European Parliament's proposals fall better in line with the commitment to halt and reverse the decline of pollinators [2].

BeeLife emphasises some key points that require further attention: the good agricultural and environmental conditions (GAEC). For instance, the European Parliament is currently proposing for GAEC 8 to maintain crop rotations in arable lands. Whereas the Parliament is specifically targeting crop rotation, the Council widens the scope by also including other practices such as crop diversification. We insist that crop rotation must be maintained and targeted as the primary and necessary practice, as it ensures not only the protection of soil but also reduces dependence on pesticides and possibly fertilisers. Although diversification could be a beneficial practise, crop rotation needs to remain central.

Another difference between the proposals by the European Parliament and the European Commission lies in GAEC 9. The European Parliament is calling for a minimum of 5% of arable land reserved for so-called non-productive features (without the use of pesticides or fertilisers). In contrast, the European Council is aiming at reducing this area to 3% if only non-productive areas are involved. The Council also proposes to introduce catch crops or nitrogen-fixing crops in GAEC 9, and in this case to increase the reserved area to 5%. Still, these measures do not respond to the need to supply wildlife with year-round resources and habitat (additionally, they are usually only applied in the winter during crop rotations). Hence, the proposal of the European Parliament is a better-suited response to GAEC 9's objective of supporting biodiversity throughout the entire year. We still remark, however, that a more ambitious proposal should include at least 10% of non-productive areas. Non-productive areas can potentially provide and support ecosystem services, including pollination and pest control [3].

Additionally, we suggest highlighting the importance of Integrated Pest Management through Statutory Management Requirements (SMR), EU rules on public, animal and plant health; animal welfare; and the environment. Particularly SMRs regarding plant protection products (12 and 13) should establish Integrated Pest Management as an eligibility criterion for payment under the first pillar. They should include Articles 53 and 67 of Regulation 1107/2009: (1) demonstration of consistent implementation of IPM at national scale must be a precondition for any Member State in order to grant emergency authorisation of pesticides; (2) farmers need to register their pesticide use, and this information should be publicly available so that other field operators are informed about potential risks for their work (e.g. beekeepers, organic producers, etc.). This proposal aims at equipping SMRs to improve controls and drive the reduction of pesticide use and thus limit the presence of intoxicants and pollutants both in the short and long term.

As the trilogues continue, stakeholders will need to remain vigilant to ensure that the bar for the CAP is raised, not lowered. BeeLife invites the European Parliament to maintain and boost its overall position. However, all three institutional actors, Parliament, Commission and Council, should seriously consider the long term impacts that the future CAP will have. Achieving the EU's goals on sustainability and the Green Deal objectives through its different strategies requires the right decisions today.


[1] BeeLife. 2020. NGOs Join Together to Request the Withdrawal of the New CAP.


[3] BeeLife. 2019. A CAP for Pollinators.


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